With all the character designs in Shield I'm not really aiming for a true likeness to the real person. It would be a little pointless for most of these people anyway since the only depictions of them are paintings or drawings and are already another artists interpretation of them and they vary from image to image. So I've tried to create my own take on these characters, kind of in the way an actor playing a role another actor has played tries to create that role for themselves. Of course, I do research and get reference. I try to base my version on what there is for me to see, but ultimately they are my versions of these people. I think it helps to think of them that way. It means I can loosen up. I only have to stay consistent with myself. I don't have to continuously refer to photographs and I certainly don't need to achieve any photo realism.
With Da Vinci, the first image I thought of was this.
A self portrait he did as an old man.
The first drawing I did of Da Vinci was him as an old man, but as I learned more about what was needed for the series it became obvious I needed him to be younger. Here's a look at that very first sketch and then the younger version that came next.
This is almost there. The flying pack is pretty much unchanged from this drawing. From here I began to think of him as more heroic and powerful looking. One thing that helped me to think of him differently was this Ted talk.
After the first issue came out, because it dealt a good deal with the renaissance period, it called to some people's minds the game Assassins Creed. I have never played the game and I know very little about it. I did become aware of it when I was getting reference together for Shield, and I did find a lot of the designs inspiring. But I had not seen their take on Da Vinci until much later. It seems to be pretty different from the way I went with him.
When I saw this it made me insecure about the way I had approached Da Vinci's design. I was never aiming for historical accuracy, but this seems pretty different. Maybe I was way off.
Shortly after I saw that I found this manga all about the life of Da Vinci.
Their depiction of him is very close to my take on him. Though I can't reed it, this book is a great resource. Check out these scenes of Da Vinci and Michelangelo working hard to out do one another.
Their take on Michelangelo is different than mine, but I'm cool with that.
Then there's this, which had me questioning everything.
Actually, here's a page from François Boucq's Pioneers Of the Human Adventure where he does a short story with Da Vinci. It's totally absurd and not meant to be historically accurate but it's really great.